Diary of Both Sides

William H. S. Burgwyn image

William H. S. Burgwyn, (1845-1913)

This diary is the second in the four diary series of William H. S. Burgwyn during the time he spent in the Civil War. The diary is not located with the other three diaries in P.C. 4 but as its own collection as P.C. 698. The reason this diary is listed separately also makes this diary very special: it not only has entries made by William H. S. Burgwyn but also entries made by Sergeant Henry Brantingham, Company C, twenty-eighth New Jersey Infantry, making this a diary from both sides of the war.

The diary was first purchased and used by Sergeant Henry Brantingham, Company C, 28th New Jersey Infantry. Henry volunteered in the United States Army for nine months on Friday August 29, 1862. He purchased the diary on Thursday, September 4, 1862, while on a pass to Freehold, New Jersey.  In the diary he lists such things as expenses, company rations, rosters, and a daily schedule. Henry also has personal entries in the diary describing: his life at FortVredenburg; Freehold, New Jersey; the march to Virginia; and the Battle of Fredericksburg. His last entry On December 12, 1862 has an eerie foreboding sentiment that almost makes me feel like I am with him while he writes. “The city presents a very desolate + forsaken appearance as I sit on a store door stone writing this- + expecting every moment to see + hear + it may be feel, the Rebel Shells in our midts [sic] – Our Cannons began fire (I suppose upon the Rebal [sic] Marked Batteries) about 1/4 of 9 A.M. but soon stoped [sic] – Heavy shelling began again about 2 1/2 P.M. lasted off + on the entire P.M. Took shelter for the houses for the night.” The very next day Sergeant Henry Brantingham was killed in action after only being in service for a little over three months. Henry Brantingham’s personal entries start on page ninety-six of the “Diary of both sides” located in our digital Civil War 150 collection.

William H. S. Burgwyn acquired the diary when he sent his men to find coats for themselves. The company was on picket duty when “the Enemy and remained there for thirty six hours till I was relieved + sent to camp. Just before being relieved finding the Enemy’s pickets not fireing at me or showing themselves I conjectured they had retreated (which they had) and gave permission to some of my men to visit the field of battle and supply themselves with overcoats and things which they needed and consequently they obtained from the dead Yankees as many overcoats shoes + boots and Haversacks and enough provisions to ration three or Regiments. I have now an overcoat on taken from a dead Yankee also a fine pair of boots and a cap.”  I have found two letters William wrote to his parents that pertain to this battle and the means in which William came to acquire the diary after Henry Brantingham’s death.  The letters paint very vivid pictures of the battle and the carnage afterward. I have just recently included those letters to our Civil War 150 letters collection as well, they are dated December 15, 1862 and December 17, 1862.

Williams H. S. Burgwyn’s entries start on page 19 of this diary on Sunday March 29, 1863. He is getting ready to return to camp from his furlough, after having spent time with family and friends inRaleigh. William returns to camp on March 13, 1863 to find his regiment “had the blues pretty bad.” William stays in theGoldsboro and Kinston area thru March, April and most of May where he participates in some small skirmishes. On May 27, 1863 word comes that the regiment will head towards Petersburg Virginia and on the same day the company’s captain, Captain Maxwell,  has his resignation approved by the Medical Examining Board.  

William receives permission to visit the plantation for a few days on his way to Petersburg. He joins his Company again on June 2, 1863. On Tuesday, June 16, 1863 “Owing to a conversation I had with Luit Dixon I determined to send in my resignation the next morning” he turns in his resignation the next day as planned. Although “St. Col Jones was kind enough to approve” his resignation recently promoted General Matt Ransom wanted to know why he resigned. William’s father comes to Petersburg “much put out” with his decision to resign and shortly after his father’s visit the “resignation” is never brought up again.

Sunday, July 12, 1863, William first hears of his brother Harry’s death while waiting on a train at Meadow Station in Richmond, Virginia. “Ransom’s cousin sent word by a sick man that my brother Harry had been killed at Gettysburg Va I could not bear to believe it + do not.”He is unable to learn anything in Richmond to confirm or discredit the report of his brother’s death, however when he reaches Petersburg he hears news his brother is not dead. “Maj Ferral Brig 2nc told me the report of Harry’s death was entirely incorrect + I immediately telegraphed Mother to that effect-.“  However on Tuesday, July 14, 1863, he finds out that it is indeed true and his brother is dead. “Found that I could hope no longer

Henry King Burgwyn, Jr. Oakwood Cemetery

that my dear beloved brother who I just began to appreciate for his good + noble qualities was taken from us by the hands of hireling mercenaries. I can hardly bear the thought of loosing [sic] him + having no one to console with me I am indeed wretched and to think that I yesterday telegraphed my dear mother that he was not killed + to have today to let her know she must hope no longer is indeed hard to bear but I had some consolation in writing her a letter.” He writes more in his diary on the subject of his brother’s passing, and I was also able to locate some letters to his parents that deal with Harry’s death. I have included a letter from William to his mother, and a letter sent to his father from J. J. Young in our digital Civil War 150 Collection. Henry’s body was buried “about 75 yds from the turnpike … directly east of a walnut tree + near it Capt. Iredell of the 47th is on his left side + Capt Wilson Co B of the 26th on his right.” His Family after the war had his body resumed and buried in the Oakwood Confederate Cemetery. 

William is in the Petersburg area until late July when his brigade is moved to Weldon. In August William is “detailed to take charge of parties to work on fortifications at Weldon.”

William H. S. Burgwyn drawing of the works at Faison Mill

For most of August and the rest of the year, William works on fortifications near Weldon, Faisons Mill and on the Murfeesboro Road. Since this area is near his home, he spends his free time at home on the plantation with family and friends, as you can see from the letter William writes to his father on October 5, 1863. In this letter William describes a sugar press that has just been completed at the plantation as well as a drawing of one of the fortifications he has been working on. [insert image]On December 20, 1863 General Matt Ransom wrote to General Clingman and gave William a “strong recommendation… for the position of Inspector Genl of his Brigd.” The diary ends with William getting ready to leave Thornbury Plantation forPetersburg to join General Clingman in his new position.

As with the last diary post I have included a list of quotes that work as an index for further interests you may have in reading the diary.

April 5, 1863;  “At 11 Am with three companies of the Regt. Co’s “E” “H” “I” under command of Capt. Maxwell arrived at our Picket lines 10 miles from Kinston + relieved three companies of the 24th Virg. Regt.”

April 8, 1863 “After dinner went out with a Mr. Evens the scout employed for this place for the purpose of seeing the country and as the men are suffering for something to eat owing to the cutting down of their provisions to 14 lbs of meat per day also to kill a wild cow that are in the surrounding swamps.”

April 11, 1863 “Heard our forces had repulsed the Enemy at Charleston on Tuesday + Wednesday sinking 1 Monitor and disabling 3 more.”

April 12, 1863 “About Sun down was attacked with the colic + till morning I suffered severely vomited twice but it did not seem to relieve me.”

April 14, 1863 “Some men from Co “P” stole some chickens from a Mrs. Bucks last night + she having complained to St. Col. Jones he ordered Capt. Ellis to have her paid for them.”

April 17, 1863 “At 3 PM news having come that they were fighting at Cove Creek our Regt received orders to go to Wise Forks.”

April 21, 1863 “At 9 AM Lt Col Jones inspected the Regiment but at 11 1/2AM he came galloping up saying the Regt must march in fifteen minutes…”

April 28, 1863 “I was afraid it would delay the Pick nick but about 11 AM it cleared up and we went + found a great many Ladies. The company was composed entirely of Country Ladies and none of them pretty or entertaining. Had a very boring time + no dancing owing to Ladies being mostly members of the church…”

May 1, 1863 “Harry rode by for a minute + told me he was ordered off to Fredericksburg Va + would leave the same after-noon I was very sorry to hear it.”

May 7, 1863 “At 8 AM started for Sandy Ridge and after marching through the worst road I ever saw full of water + black mud sometimes knee deep + constantly ankle deep we reached Sandy Ridge…”

May 20, 1863 “Went out with the Regiment and Brigade + Cooks Brigade to witness the execution of a man of the 43rd NCT condemned to be shot for desertion It was a most painfull [sic] sight + when after having prayed with his clergyman the front rank did not kill him + the rear rank then had to march up + shoot + they loaded again but it was unnecessary.”

May 27, 1863 “About 9 AM heard we had to leave for Petersburg the 25th Regt leaving first + ours following Cap Maxwell sent in his resignation today + had it approved by the medical Examining Board. Obtained permission to visit the plantation+ stay a day.”

June 15, 1863; “heard Col Ransom had been promoted which was certainly so.”

June 17, 1863 “Genl R sent for me about 10 AM to come to him in town + when I came (having borrowed St Peebles horse) he only wanted to ask me why I resigned.”

June 27th, 1863; “Obtained permission to visit the battle ground of “Seven Pines” I could only see some bones of Yankees who were buried so shallow that they had been dug up by dogs…”

July 6, 1863 “At 6 Am Col Jones with 200 of picked men started in accordance with orders from Genl Hill to drive in the Enemy’s Pickets below Cross Roads…”

July 8, 1863 “Heard the report of Lee capturing 40000 Yankees confirmed, but was much depressed to + do not credit the rumor that Vicksburg had fallen.”

July 12, 1863 “Genl Hood. Ransom’s cousin sent me word by a sick man that my brother Harry had been killed at Gettysburg Va I could not bear to believe it + do not…”

July 15, 1863 “my brothers death presses with a heavy load on my heart + I find difficulty in believing or realizing it…”

July 18, 1863 “Saw in New York Herald that Genl. Pettigrew had been killed…”

July 22, 1863 “At 3 PM received a note from Bob Peebles who went in town that caused me immediately to go to town.” (Meets Miss Page a “particular” friend of his late brother; see page 54)

July 29, 1863 “Found the Yankees between six + seven hundred strong at [Deloaches ?] Mill I then reported to Genl. R + went home to feed my horses + Men. Weather cloudy + rainy I rode today at least 50 miles +was very much exhausted + sore.”

August 20, 1863 “Was detailed to take charge of working parties that were to work on fortifications at Weldon. Had a detail of 100 men from the 24th Regt…”

October 31, 1863 “Sent all the slaves home not to return + 38 free negros who had forms + families to return in two weeks.”

November 10, 1863 “a letter from Mother stating my Father had had an attack of Paralysis after dinner I went to Weldon + having obtained permission to visit Raleigh for two days to see my father…”

December 2, 1863 “Received permission from Col Jones to return to see Genl. R on business + got the Conductor of the train to put me on the train as I could not get on unless I had a pass + I could not obtain one unless my permit was courter signed by Genl  Pichett + I could not wait to get it done arrived at W about 3 PM + immediately saw Genl R who said I should be attached  to his staff for the present”

December 20, 1863 “Genl R gave me a strong recommendation to Genl Clingman for the position of Inspector Genr of his Brigd + I telegraphed Father to Richmond to see Genl C + make applications for the position.”

December 24, 1863 “Dec. Thursday 24th At home all day + in the evening assisted my Mother in decking the house in Xmas style.”

December 25, 1863 “How differently I spent this Xmas from last + the only thing that saddened the day was that my poor brother Harry had been killed + could not be with us as was hoped last Xmas.”

January 1, 1864 “Wrote Genl Ransom an application for a leave of absence for two days to see Genl Clingman at Petersburg Va for the purpose of pressing in person my application for a position in his staff”

January 19, 1864 “Was busy all day on the trunk George brought me word from Genl Ransom that Genl Clingman wanted me to go at once to Petersburg …”

[This section of this diary belongs to Sergeant Brantingham, New Jersey Volunteers]

August 29, 1862 “Friday Aug 29. inlisted [sic] as Volenteer [sic] in United States Army for 9 months.”

September 3, 1862 “brought milk for Comp- jas P per quart each man paying one cent for the same. bal on hand 13 cents which was placed in my hands + I appointed to attend to the milk trade” [his milk trade is documented in the diary’ s accounting]

September 4, 1862 “After good night’s rest arose washed + combed – collected milk fund, paid for milk, breakfast. Obtained pass to Freehold- bought this book price 20”

December 12, 1862 “The city presents a very desolate + forsaken appearance as I sit on a store door stone writing this- + expecting every moment to see + hear + it may be feel, the Rebel Shells in our midts”

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